My 977 days held hostage by Somali pirates
One afternoon two years into my captivity, in a dirty villa, I sat up on the mattress and noticed that my guard had left the room. His rifle lay on a mat. I considered grabbing it.
The pirates were holding me in Galkacyo, a regional capital in central Somalia. They told me it was Haradheere, near the coast, but I knew Haradheere had no commercial airport, and at first the pirates would giggle every time we heard passenger planes take off and land.
I had seen the dull and dusty buildings of Galkacyo’s airport as a free man, and now the aircraft noise inspired baroque dreams of freedom – fantasies ranging from a quiet release on the tarmac to a clandestine gathering of Black Hawks and commandos in the dead of night.
My guard, Bashko, came in and noticed the gun. He picked it up by the muzzle, nimbly, and sat down with a brilliant smile.
“Problem!” he said, meaning the unattended firearm.
He rested it behind him and munched a stem of khat, a leafy green plant that acts as a stimulant. His eyes were fervid. I had just been wondering how many of the guards I could shoot before they shot me. I smiled. I was – or had been – a peaceful man. I didn’t want to kill him, or anyone. But I was going nuts.
“Michael,” Bashko said with good humour. “If the Americans come, you will be killed.”
“Why no money?” he asked, referring to the ransom the pirates had demanded.